E.V. Yost ’20 to establish Queer Crisis Response Unit

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law graduate E.VYost ’20 has been selected as a 2020 Open Society Institute-Baltimore Community Fellow to establish the Queer Crisis Response Unit (QCRU), trans-led community care network supporting LGBTQ+ people experiencing crises in Baltimore City. 

Devised as an alternative to 911the initiative will focus on making crisis response skills more widely accessible and reducing the number of interactions between law enforcement and Baltimore’s queer and trans community. Volunteers interested in supporting their LGBTQ+ neighbors can sign up to receive training in crisis counseling, CPR, mediation, and other skills that Yost says will “help people respond to emergencies and foster more resilient, stronger, interdependent community relationships.”  

Eventually they hope to establish a crisis hotline staffed by peers who will connect callers with resources, and when necessary, deploy a dedicated mobile response team of LGBTQ+ volunteers and allies who are equipped to respond to different types of emergencies ranging from mental health crises to housing instability, intimate partner violence, or discrimination.  

The project is based at the Rebuild, Overcome, and Rise (ROAR) Center at UMBwhich is housed within Maryland Carey LawROAR, where Yost interned last falloffers wraparound legal and supportive services for survivors of crimes.  

“ROAR is very excited to be the host site for E.V.’s OSI-Baltimore Fellowship, says Lydia Watts, ROAR’s executive directorBy creating the Queer Crisis Response Unit in Baltimore City, E.V. will be using their expertise, lived experience, and commitment to their community to address the disenfranchisement, minimizing, and abuse that queer and trans people often experience at the hands of police. 

Yost is equally enthusiastic about working with ROAR because the center’s mission of working with survivors who choose not to file police reports or pursue prosecution aligns with what they term their own abolitionist values. 

The 18-month fellowship began in November as another COVID-19 surge was hitting the city hardadding some obstacles to quickly fulfilling their original vision. For now, they are focusing on uplifting mutual aid work that’s already happeningbuilding relationships with grassroots organizations, nonprofits, and government leaders, and developing crisis response trainings for community volunteersAll of which can happen on physically distanced platforms, though maybe not as organically as in-personThe greater concern, Yost points out, is what actual crisis response looks like in a pandemic. Can you support someone in a crisis from six feet away? I don’t know,” they say, pondering how to “honor everyone’s differing needs and be effective.  

If Yost’s law school record is any indication, they will find innovative ways to work through the challenges. 

E.V. was an outstanding student attorney in the Gender Violence Clinic,” says Prof. Leigh Goodmark, the clinic’s director. Their work on behalf of our incarcerated clients was dedicated, tireless, and enormously effective. Our clients benefitted tremendously from having their help, and I know their ROAR clients are going to benefit just as much.”  

Also having served as a student attorney in Maryland Carey Law’s Immigration Clinic, Yost says the Clinical Program was their favorite part of law school. “Working with the queer and trans community is something that I’m really passionate about,” says Yost, who got to do just that in both clinic settings. During law school, they interned at FreeState Justice, Lambda Legaland the Homeless Persons Representation Projectwere co-chair of OutLawthe LGBTQ+ student group at Maryland Carey Law, and manuscripts editor on the Journal of Race, Religion, Gender, and ClassTheir comment arguing that homophobia and transphobia are codified in Maryland law and contribute to violence against transgender women in Baltimore was published during their second year in law school. 

Now, having passed the bar, they are putting those experiences to work as an organizer, activist, and attorney, continuing to improve lives in Baltimore City 

Learn more about Yost’s project here. 

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